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[personal profile] chaila said: Sell me on the Vorkosigan saga! I know nothing! :)

Ooh! A fun one for my last post for this December Talking thingy! The Vorkosigan series is basically a big old family saga about an aristocratic, politically-powerful family on a world that's kind of like Space Imperial Russia. 

Now, some instinct tells me the way to get [personal profile] chaila into a series is by pushing the awesome women angle... and the Vorkosigan Saga is really, really good for that. Cordelia is one of my favourite characters in anything ever - she has this way of solving problems with a combination of quick-thinking, amateur psychology and just jumping and seeing what happens, and she really gets people, and she uses that skill to literally change worlds. Alys knows everybody and everything and exactly what needs doing in any situation, and her smooth elegance is the packaging for a will of iron and a kind heart. Elena and Elli are both breathtakingly competent soldiers, and both of them figure out what they want and need and go for it, in very different ways. Taura is just wonderful and adorable and deserves all the hugs. Ekaterin is brave and smart and strong and passionate. And that's before you get to all the Koudelkas, Laisa, Tej, Helen Vorthys, and a dozen other beautifully-drawn, amazing side characters. And because it's a saga, and all of these women are either members of or peripherally involved with the central Vorkosigan family, you get to see most of them change and grow over the course of several decades and it's always a pleasure to watch.

I mean, I don't want to tell you lies, the (arguably) central character of the whole series is a guy, but he's 1) surrounded by varied and amazing women characters, and 2) absolutely fascinating and totally lovable in spite of his many major flaws, and that's coming from me, the person who's just not that interested in dudes in fiction.

There's so much good stuff going on in these books - political intrigue, spaceships, really good, thoughtful, consistent world building, some interesting sex/gender stuff (although some elements are kind of awkwardly dated, it still comes out pretty much positive overall), discussion of various types of prejudice and how it can be fought against, interesting points about different ways of having and using power, jokes both silly and clever and stories of every sort. Because of the sheer number of books in the series, sometimes it's space opera and sometimes it's a farce and sometimes it's a comedy of manners and sometimes it's just 400 pages of heartbreak that you'll want to throw across the room.

But the most consistent thread running through the whole series is family and identity - what makes you who you are, how the people you love help make you, and you make them in turn, how you change as you get older, how your perspective changes with you, how family is not always blood and blood is not always family, how you distinguish yourself from others and how you identify yourself with them, what makes a family and what makes an individual. These books have some of the deepest and most thoughtful explorations of these questions I've ever seen in literature.

Now, if that interests you, a few tips for how to get into reading them:

Mild spoilers if you want to go in 100% unknowing... )




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[personal profile] carawj said: Talk about a book of your choice that I made you read. ;D

This is an interesting question, and to be fair over the years Cara has made me read some individual books, but she's more likely to make me read epic sagas spanning thousands of pages and dozens of books... ;)

One of these was the Robin Hobb series that starts with Assassin's Apprentice and is still going on some thirteen (?) books later. All of the books are massively thick and hugely complicated, with multiple slow-moving interweaving plots, various different forms of magic that can be performed by different people, court intrigue, gossip and scandal, long passages of introspection, and surprising revelations.

It took me a while to get into them - Fitz, the narrator for the first trilogy, is a really interesting character, but at first it was tricky to plough through his pages and pages of grumping around being miserable about how hard his life is. (It IS pretty hard, to be fair, poor Fitz. <3) The world-building and the awesome side characters got me through, and now I adore Fitz, although I still find myself rolling my eyes at him a bit.

What I really love about Robin Hobb is the depth and thoughtfulness of her characterisation. She's created some of my favourite female characters of all time, and some of my favourite male characters too - and I know a writer is good when they actually make me care about dudes. ;) Every Robin Hobb character has layers and layers that gradually peel away over the course of the books until you - and usually they - discover who they really are. Almost every character you hate when you first meet them, you end up loving them at the end because you understand so perfectly what brought them to where they are. Characters who start out afraid, weak, childish and annoying learn and suffer (often horribly) and endure to become brave, strong, mature and loveable. And their paths are never predictable - Robin Hobb sets up a situation and then flips everything sideways so nothing happens the way you expect.

Basically they're awesome!


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